By Amanda Vining, Regular ContributorDecember 12, 2015
image via salon.com
Media has become a driving force behind the holiday season, and with that comes the many messages that media companies and advertisers convey in order to sell their products. The story that is most often portrayed in the media around the Thanksgiving and winter holidays is that of coming home and spending time with family. Commercials depict adult children traveling via air, bus, and train to be with their parents for the celebrations. Holiday movies often show comical yet intimate depictions of family gatherings. And, print advertisements frequently show pictures of large groups of related people smiling and laughing together.
But what about those of us who aren’t around our families for the holidays? Those of us who are away at school, don’t have the resources to travel, or who have family dynamics that don’t encourage coming together for the holidays?
When all of the messages around us are conveying that we need to be near our biological families for the holidays, it’s easy to feel lonely when that isn’t available to us.
When I was young, my parents had a terrible divorce. The result was a divided and strained family dynamic, and after I went away to school, I seldom encountered an opportunity to spend holidays with my family. For the past several years, every time the holiday season rolled around, I would look at Facebook pictures of my friends spending time with their families and feel sad and lonely, because my family didn’t mimic their smiling faces and loving hugs. It wasn’t until a recent conversation with a respected mentor of mine that I realized that my jealousy and resentment have been misguided. I’ve never been alone on a holiday, nor have I been void of love and community. I’ve made wonderful memories celebrating holidays with friends, families for whom I babysat in college, and the community from my church. I just hadn’t recognized that the circle of friends I had surrounded myself with had become my family.
There are many ways to enjoy the holidays if you aren’t around your family.
“Friendsgiving” has become a celebrated alternative for celebrating Thanksgiving and a tradition in which I have found great joy. Spending a holiday celebration with friends allows you to learn about their unique traditions, and it also gives you the opportunity to create new ones. If you aren’t around your family for the holidays, look around you for new ways to celebrate. Perhaps there’s another student in your dorm who also isn’t going home for the holidays and to whom you could reach out, a close friend whose family would be thrilled to have you join them, or a community outreach opportunity such as serving holidays meals at a soup kitchen. It can be hard to not be around your family when Facebook and adverts are sending us so many messages, but all it takes is a glance around you to realize that there are so many other ways to celebrate the season and embrace the love that surrounds all of us.
For me, the holiday season has broadened my definition of family. It has allowed me to celebrate the love I share with my friends. Creating your own family of friends for the holidays is a gift. My holiday celebrations may not be spent with those whose blood I share, but they will be spent with those whose hearts I share.
Who do you spend your holidays with? How have you adjusted to holidays without a traditional family dynamic? Tell us below!
Amanda lives in Austin, Texas, where she strives every day to be as BRAVE and BeautyFULL as she can be. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a self-designed degree in Children’s Rights, and Duke University with a certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, Amanda can be found scouring Pinterest for her latest craft project, drinking coconut mochas in her favorite coffee shop, and advocating for sexual violence prevention on her blog, Talk About Rape (www.talkaboutrape.com.)
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